9Dragons is a martial arts themed MMORPG set during China’s Ming Dynasty, and features inspired geographical locations. Choose from one of 9 clans and a myriad of classes, mastering Kung-Fu and fighting other players in territorial PvP across 240 levels.
|Publisher: Red Fox Games (NA)
Type: Martial Arts MMORPG
Release Date: May 09, 2007
Pros: +Wide variety of classes to pursue. +Helpful community. +Original mini-game design.
Cons: -Poor UI Design. -Tutorial is not helpful. -Dated graphics may not appeal to some players.
9Dragons is an MMORPG set in China’s Ming Dynasty, when warring martial arts clans fought each other for supremacy. Enter a world fueled by discipline, honor, and determination, where your physical prowess and understanding of Kung-Fu will see you become a formidable warrior. Join one of nine distinct martial arts clans, and the learn the art of Kung-Fu with each clan offering a distinct skill tree and their own spin on the common classes. Six of the clans are divided between White and Black, depending on their allegiances to the Emperor, whether they support him or rebel against his reign. Fight for your beliefs by engaging in territorial PvP, with a robust tracking system that records your wins and losses, as well as awarding karma for victory. Employ a variety of weapons as you grind from level 1 to 240, with a unique mini game system used every 12 levels. Enroll as a student under the austere eyes of another player, and receive bonuses to aid you in leveling. Explore a world inspired by China and featuring real geographical locations, such as The Great Wall of China and the Shaolin Monastery.
9Dragons Key Features:
- 9 Clans - join one of nine martial arts clans, with six available early on, and follow a distinct warrior path.
- Unique Mini Games - learning new moves and advancing to the next phase of your training requires playing distinct minigames that harness your focus.
- Chinese Geography - explore an immense world featuring geographical locations like the Great Wall of China and the Shaolin Monastery.
- Territorial PvP - choose from White Clans or Black Clans, and engage in zone PvP for domination, with a robust tracking system recording your stats.
- Master Student Program - veteran players can recruit pupils and help them level with unique items and bonuses.
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9Dragons Featured Video
By, Sean Sullivan
My expectations were not high loading up 9Dragons for the first time. Based on its website I formed a premeditated judgment that left me believing I was going to tear the game apart. The difficulty I had installing it didn’t help either, although no enlightening Zen Koan was solved instantaneously so perhaps I was learning the first lesson in 9Dragons’ Kung-Fu oriented world. Finally realizing that I had to delete the GamesGuard folder for the client to recognize itself, I was ready to take out my old gi and soak up sweat with a band around my forehead like Ralph Macchio. I learned that you shouldn’t judge a martial arts game by its 2007 website.
The Next Bruce Lee
Greeted by soothing ancient Chinese music I set about crafting my character like he was a member of Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army. And it’s a fitting analogy because no matter how many options you mix and match, every character looks the same. With a small selection of hairstyles and facial structures to choose from you won’t be imbuing yourself in 9Dragons’ world. The game was released in 2007, so perhaps I should be cutting it some slack, but it offers as much variety as Ultima Online and EverQuest—game’s that released in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Luckily, I did find the perfect combination that made the clouds part and the heaven’s sing, as my man-child glided down a coruscant beam of light, radiating a power never felt before on earth. His name is “MrSparkles”, and his chest radiates courage and discipline.
It's A Whole New Ancient Chinese World
Ancient Chinese navigation is easy enough: point-and-click with the left-mouse button while the right mouse swivels your camera (Ragnarok Online style). It’s a fine system, but can be disorienting at first because the game is 3D, making it difficult at times to place your marker in a moveable area without interacting with an object instead—typically why point and-click systems work best in a top-down worldview. As you navigate its immediately apparent that the visuals are from a bygone age. Textures are rather rough, and would be more appropriately found in a mobile MMORPG game world like Celtic Heroes. Objects render at strange distances. Sometimes enemies 10KM away will appear, while a veiled creature next to you only renders as he begins attacking. At least the music is good, when it plays.
The game’s soundtrack always drop like the records finished and you’re left waiting for the DJ to throw on the next album. And that intermediate drop breaks the immersive quality of the game, and it’s too bad because 9Dragon’s soundtrack reminds me of the original Dragon Ball Z. Beyond hard-hitting combat noises, the SFX is weak and became irritating. Sprinting players make a wub wub noise that sounded like a fly burying himself in my ear, while the unsheathing sound of the interface is cheesy. Quest dialogue is excessively dry and drab—perhaps the nuances were lost in translation—though I’ve certainly seen worse in foreign releases. It’s not unbearable, and lacking a particular narrative the text seems secondary to the overall nature of the game. And, the user interface is an abysmal eyesore. All text is around size 8 font, straining my brain to comprehend what was going on.
I'm Shaolin, But I Still Kill Mobs
Combat is straightforward, building on the point-and-click system that seems to be giving way to active combat systems in modern games. Before decimating harmless herds of innocent foxes you must be sure to turn on combat mode, just as in Ultima Online. Whereas Peace Mode sets your character in meditative open ready stance, Combat Mode raises your hands ready to unleash your fists of fury. So long as you're within the proper distance of an enemy your attacks will connect. I had some issues in terms of targeting. In every other instance when I selected an enemy my character would do nothing, even after ensuring I had double-clicked my target. I sat there spamming double-click until MrSparkes snapped out of his acid flashback and started swinging.
Skills are hotkeyed to your toolbar and can be employed in combat, though more often than not I relied on my basic attack to hammer enemies down. And you’ll be left-clicking plenty of enemies. The game’s premise is grinding. You can quest, but in reality if you want to level efficiently you’ll be left-clicking mobs for hours on end. While I expected to find combat blasé, I enjoyed it—more so for nostalgia’s sake than anything innovative. 9Dargons is a game where you can watch The Shining and grind effectively at the same time; its a passive combat system that transforms you into an algorithm following simple axioms, rather than actively participant. And considering there are 240 levels to grind through it’s not a bad thing.
The Ten Bulls of Leveling
Upon entering the world you’re tasked with distributing your attribute points between Strength, Essence, Wisdom, Constitution, and Dexterity. MrSparkles, by virtue of his nature, is a fierce melee warrior so I elected to place points in Strength and Dexterity—the only two affecting melee combat directly. Although Constitution does increase health, I expected to decimate opponents before they could touch me. With each level you’ll receive four more stat points to be assigned as you please. You can feel free to experiment with various build, as you can always reset them by talking to the nameless old man in the starting zone.
As you level you also increase your Cheng level, a sort of sub-level system consisting of 12 levels for each set. So, starting off you’ll be in the Cheng of Losing Self. Upon reaching basic level 13 your Cheng level resets to level 1, in Cheng of Gathering Chi. And in order to move to the next Cheng set requires you to play a minigame called Gathering Chi, in which your character meditates before taking one more step down the road towards enlightenment. The mini-game is a unique feature, although seemingly useless. As your character meditates an image of his body covered in chi points signals you to move along his minds-eye through his body. You press the mouse-click corresponding with the color to move on to the next circle, i.e. a white chi ball is left-click, a black is right-click, and blue is both right and left simultaneously. The mini-game aspect seems rather silly, but it does force you to leave the grind and find a safe place before continuing to level. And that does invoke a sense of progression, that you are becoming a stronger warrior reflecting on what you’ve learned on the journey so far.
Back to [Martial Arts] School
Early on in the game I was asked consider joining one of the six starter clans, eventually swearing my allegiance to one of the ancient fighting style. Each clan offers different classes and advanced abilities. While the game does nothing to elucidate those differences besides a one sentence description, I knew MrSparkles was destined for Shaolin long before the game finished installing. There are six total beginner clans to choose from, with three clans belonging to The White, and the other three belonging to The Black. They’re divided between clans loyal to the emperor and those who are not respectively; a rather simplistic way of dividing a player base without investing too much time into lore. Upon reaching level 25 and Opening Chi 1 you can elect to officially join a clan, pledging your life to their cause.
Clans are at war with each other fighting for territorial zones throughout the world. Stats are tracked in the character menu, accounting for wins/losses. PvP does suffer from balancing issues, with Nukers decimating other players and healers seemingly useless in battle. Not that PvP interested me, I was destined to become a Shaolin monk, honing my skills at the temple.
Upon experimenting with Shaolin I was able to learn my first ability, Basic Fist Attack. But in 9Dragons you don’t just unlock a new move, you have to train first, with a mini-game. Since it’s a physical attack I walked up to a wooden dummy to spark a game where a ball slides back and forth on vertical axis, prompting you to left-click click when it's in the red zone. Each successive click allots a point towards your skill, culminating in three levels. Its undoubtedly an innovative feature for an MMORPG, but one that wears down quick. There’s no challenge and it feels like an artificial time sink. Just give me the skill so I can get back to wrecking sly foxes and armies of wandering mobs.
"Please Teach Me Senpai!"
The community in 9Dragons is helpful and rather dedicated. I randomly became another player’s disciple, and he threw me a glowing dagger and lead me around to show me the ropes—commanding me to grind; I obsequiously followed his orders. Turns out that having a sensei awarded me a buff so long as my teacher was online, increasing my health and damage done. And my experience points earned contributed points that translated into master-student items. It’s a neat system that encourages veteran players to work with newbies, and I would like to see something similar in more games.
Final Verdict - Good
9Dragons is undoubtedly past its prime, but its core gameplay manages to hold its own while innovating some mechanics through its minigames and wide variety of classes. Although the strenuous UI, dated visuals, and lacking tutorial will not entice new players, I found something charming shining through the Ancient China setting. Perhaps I just miss the mind-numbing grind, or I’m a sucker for martial arts themed games. And while games like Age of Wushu have updated the martial arts themed MMORPG, 9Dragons will live on in those player’s minds who dedicated their time grinding mobs while watching Bruce Lee videos.
9Dragons System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Pentium 4 2.0GHz or Sempron 2300+
Video Card: GeForce 8300 or Radeon X800 SE
RAM: 1 GB
Hard Disk Space: 800 MB
9Dragons Music & Soundtrack
9Dragons Additional Information
Developer(s): JoongWon Games (formerly known as Indy21)
Publisher: GamesCampus (NA), Red Fox Games (NA/World Wide), JoongWon Games (SK), Run Up (HK), Avrora Interactive (RU)
Game Director(s): Steven-Elliot Atman
Lead Writer(s): Jwa Baek, Steven-Elliot Atman (NA Translation)
Beta Release: January 01 2007
Release Date: May 09, 2007
Development History / Background:
9Dragon’s was developed by South Korean indie game company Indy21. The company made an agreement with Persistent Worlds and Acclaim, allowing the two companies to market and sell 9Dragons to Western Audiences. The story for the Korean version of the game was written by wuxia novelist Jwa Baek, and then translated for Western audiences by Steven-Elliot Atman. On August 24, 2010 GamersFirst acquired the publishing rights to 9Dragons for the North American release. Indy21 eventually changed their name to JoongWon Games. A mobile version of 9Dragons is currently in development and expected sometime in 2016, as well as another mobile title called Tile Hero—expected sometime in 2015. The game is also available through Red Fox Games. GamesCampus shut their version of 9Dragons down in January, 2016. Red Fox is currently the only official Western publisher.